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2 Nov, 2015

11th World Islamic Economic Forum To Open in KL Nov 3

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Shamsi

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 02 November 2015 (20 Muharram 1437). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.




malaysia logo

Click on the image to get a full list of all the great festivals and events right across Malaysia this year.

The fabulous Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015, or MyFEST 2015, is witnessing an endless celebration of festivals, events and happenings. MyFEST 2015 is set to make Malaysia the top-of-the-mind tourist destination, encouraging tourists to stay longer in order to enjoy the festival offerings nationwide. Themed “Endless Celebrations”, the year-long calender is packed with festivities of every genre; for instance cultural festivals, shopping extravanganzas, international acclaimed events, eco-tourism events, arts, music showcases, food promotion and other themed events. The Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015 campaign leverages on smart partnerships in line with the National Blue Ocean Strategy that nurtures stakeholders engagement, support and participation. The symbiosis enables Malaysia’s tourism efforts to be competitive and to remain one of the prime contributors to the socio-economic development of the nation. As Malaysia is blessed with various cultures, the new campaign seeks to showcase and celebrate Malaysia’s bountiful, diverse cultures and various festivities. The design for Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015 logo depicts a traditional musical instrument known as the Rebana Ubi. The drum is a musical instrument which can be associated with Malaysia’s multicultural society, in line with the spirit of 1Malaysia. Therefore, the logo design reflects an important part of the country’s heritage, traditions and culture.

For a full listing of all the great festivals, activities and events this year, pls click on this link


The Islamic Tourism Centre in Malaysia has launched a vibrant new website presenting Malaysia as a prime destination for Islamic tourism and a global halal hub. The website offers a wealth of information on Mosque trails, Islamic Museums, Ramadan & Eid-ul Fitr, Muslim-Friendly Tour Highlights, as well as a Muslim Visitor’s Guide, Halal Directory and Souvenirs Directory. Located strategically at the heart of Southeast Asia, Malaysia is well-known for its natural beauty and diverse cultural landscape. At its social core are three of Asia’s oldest civilisations – Malay, Chinese and Indian – as well as the ethnic communities of Sabah and Sarawak, resulting in a unique and inspiring blend of cultures. With an abundance of halal food, prayer facilities and Islamic attractions, Malaysia perfectly caters to the needs of Muslim travellers. The ITC plays a pivotal role in bringing Malaysia to the forefront of Islamic tourism. It works with industry players to build their capacity in Islamic tourism, thus ensuring that the needs of Muslim visitors are better served. ITC has also taken several initiatives in standardising industry’s best practices through research, seminars, workshops and industry outreach programmes. Now is the perfect time to experience the country’s multitude of Muslim-friendly tourism products – Islamic architectural heritage, halal gastronomic delights, vibrant Islamic festivals and world-class Islamic events – all guaranteed to give visitors an incredible time.

Click here to see the fabulous new website

For more information about what makes Malaysia one of the most popular destinations in the Islamic world, as well as on planning your next holiday or MICE event in Malaysia, please click: http://www.tourism.gov.my/ or http://www.tourismmalaysia.gov.my

facebook: http://www.facebook.com/friendofmalaysia

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

Blog: http://blog.tourism.gov.my


Watch Islamic Travel Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil’s landmark TEDx lecture on “Peace through Tourism” on YouTube — the first travel industry journalist in Bangkok invited to speak at this prestigious forum. CLICK HERE.




11th World Islamic Economic Forum To Open in KL Nov 3

Kuala Lumpur — A total of 21 Heads of State, personalities and ministers are due to attend the 11th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF), themed “Building Resilience for Equitable Growth”, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 3rd to 5th November 2015. They will share more on the potential businesses can explore in their countries as well as opportunities for collaboration to achieve sustainable and equitable growth in Muslim and non-Muslim economies.

malaysia logo

Click on the image to get a full list of all the great festivals and events right across Malaysia this year.

The World Islamic Economic Forum is the largest international gathering of heads of government, economic experts and stakeholders to share experiences and knowledge about Islamic economy since its launch in 2004.

Set to welcome more than 2,500 delegates representing more than 100 Muslim and non-Muslim countries, the 11th WIEF returns to Kuala Lumpur just as the region prepares for the regional integration opportunities that the upcoming ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) promises. The establishment of the AEC is in tandem with the goals of WIEF as it continues to promote Islamic finance as an economic model that encourages sustainable development, bringing stability and prosperity to global economy.

The three-day Forum will cover cutting-edge topics in the Muslim world including Islamic finance, halal industries, green technologies, education, sustainable living and development, women and youth development, and the Creative Arts.

This year’s list of high-level participants include:

Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia & Patron, WIEF Foundation

John Dramani Mahama, President, Republic of Ghana

Dragan Čović, Chairman of the Presidency, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Abdelilah Benkirane, Prime Minister, Morocco

Jusuf Kalla, Vice President, Republic of Indonesia

Yaqub Eyyubov, Deputy Prime Minister, Republic of Azerbaijan

Dr Ahmad Mohamed Ali, President, Islamic Development Bank

Dr. Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah Ibni Almarhum Sultan Azlan Muhibbuddin Shah Al-Maghfur-Lah, Sultan of the State of Perak Darul Ridzuan

Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Former President, Republic of Indonesia

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, Former Prime Minister, The State of Qatar

YAB Dato’ Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Deputy Prime Minister, Malaysia

YB Dato’ Sri Mustapa Mohamad, Minister of International Trade and Industry, Malaysia

E. Mohamed Saeed, Minister of Economic Development & Special Envoy of the President, Maldives

Sun Chanthol, Senior Minister and Minister of Commerce, Cambodia

Othsman Hassan, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Cambodia

Seth Terkper, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Ghana

Anne Waiguru, Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning, Kenya

Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, The United Kingdom

Mustafa Kamal, Minister of Planning, Bangladesh

Mike Mabuyakhulu, Minister of Economic Development for the Province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Liban Soleman, Deputy Chief of Staff of the President of the Gabonese Republic

Tun Musa Hitam, Chairman of the WIEF Foundation, said, “The impact of China’s slowdown has reverberated across the world with nations and businesses alike seeking ways to mitigate the impact of this. Yet, many are not aware of or willing to pursue opportunities in new markets which present immense growth opportunities. The 11th World Islamic Economic Forum will bring to the fore opportunities in dynamic economies and thriving industries which may otherwise have been overlooked.

“The Forum’s programme includes numerous activities which encourage delegates to network, connect and explore opportunities for collaborations. Our aim is simple – Building Bridges through Business to drive economic and social progress,” he added.

Beyond looking at dynamic fast-growing economies, the stimulating discussions, plenary sessions, one-to-one meetings and networking opportunities encourage businesses to also explore different industries and segments for growth. The close to two billion Muslim consumers in the world and expectation that growth in total value of Muslim consumers’ contribution to the global digital economy will outweigh the growth of the total global digital economy suggests opportunities for businesses all over the world to target the Muslim market.

The 11th WIEF will also see the introduction of the ‘SME Business Pavilion’, in support of the SME community in Southeast Asia to uncover growth prospects. The ‘SME Business Pavilion’ provides a platform for business owners to foster cross-border collaborations and increase their competitiveness in the international marketplace.

The forum has gained attention with the leading companies from major Islamic economies. Some of these companies, including Maybank Islamic Berhad and Khazanah Nasional Berhad, have come on board to sponsor and play a part in this annual gathering of world leaders, top CEOs, experts, academics, entrepreneurs and businessmen from the global economic arena.

Leading international and local media partners including Bloomberg TV Malaysia, CNBC, The Financial Times, The Economist and Thomson Reuters will be delivering comprehensive business insights and bringing up-to-date news coverage of the interactive and thought-provoking activities held during the three-day event.

Some of the international speakers include Janez Potočnik, co-chair of the International Resource Panel (IRP), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Dr Anwar Ghani, President of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) & Chairman of Halal Advisory Council, New Zealand and Tan Sri Jemilah Mahmood, Chief, World Humanitarian Summit Secretariat, United States of America, amongst the international speakers and role-players at the forum.

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Azeri FM: Baku intends to facilitate visa issuance for Iranians

Tabriz, Oct 21, IRNA – Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Republic Elmar Mammadyarov said on Wednesday that Azeri government intends to create a new system to facilitate visa issuance for Iranians.

He made the remarks in a meeting with Governor General of East Azarbaijan Province Esmaeil Jabbarzadeh in Baku.

He expressed pleasure with good neighborly and friendly ties in light of the historical, cultural and religious relations between the two countries.

Jabbarzadeh, for his part, called mutual relations beneficial for both nations.

The governor-general of East Azarbaijan province briefed the Azeri foreign minister on East Azarbaijan province capacities in the field of tourism, medical treatment, scientific and academic fields, calling for development of ties with Azerbaijan Republic in all fields.

The two sides also discussed ways to develop cooperation in producing agricultural and industrial goods, ways to enter new world markets, using capacities of Aras Free Trade-Industrial Zone and regular exchange university professors and students.

The issue of re-establishment of flight between Tabriz and Baku was considered and the two sides due to take prompt decision on the issue.

Iran has already cancelled visa for Azerbaijan Republic citizens and reciprocally wanted cancellation of visa for Iranians.

Meanwhile, Jabbarzadeh met with Minister of Natural Disaster Kamaleddin Heydarov to explore ways for of cooperation in these fields.

Heydarov said that the Azeri republic is capable of prevention and management of natural disasters underlined constructive cooperation with Iran in related fields.

They reviewed issues of mutual interest, including training of manpower in the field of crisis management and exchange of experience.

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Saudi Tourism to generate 1.7m jobs by 2020

Arab News, 31 October 2015, RIYADH: Job opportunities in the tourism sector of the Kingdom are expected to reach 1.7 million by 2020, according to the Tourism Information and Research Center (MAS), the statistical division of the the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH).

“This total figure includes the number of direct and indirect jobs in the labor market in the tourism sector and other sectors associated and benefiting from tourism in the Kingdom,” the latest report released by MAS said.

The statistical report further said that the number of jobs in the tourism accommodation sector in 2015 will go up to 113,048 and this number is expected to increase to 129,526 jobs by 2017 due to the execution of a number of hotel mega-projects across the Kingdom especially in the two Holy Cities of Makkah and Madinah and in the capital city Riyadh.

MAS statistics further indicated that the number of direct job opportunities in the tourism sector until the end of 2014 reached over 795,000 and the number is estimated to rise to over 840,000 by the end of 2015, while the number of indirect jobs by the end of 2014 reached over 397,000, and is expected to exceed 420,000 by the end of 2015.

The total of direct and indirect jobs was 1,192,285 by the end of 2014, and this number is predicted to rise to 1,262,153 by the end of 2015.

Moreover, according to the report the tourism accommodation sector in the Kingdom is witnessing rapid growth in investments, as the number of tourism accommodation facilities (hotels, furnished apartments, hotel villas, hotel apartments, tourism inns, roadside hotels and resorts), reached 3,710 by the end of 2014, with 1,222 hotels and 2,488 furnished apartments.

Keeping with this trend, the number of hotel rooms in the Kingdom has reached 299,500 and furnished apartments 87,050.

Notably, tourism is currently the second most important economic sector in the Kingdom, where Saudization has reached 28 percent and the estimated number of people working in the tourism sector by 2025 is predicted to reach 317,352 compared to 94,249 in 2014.

According to industry experts, the tourism sector has potential to create concrete change in the national economy and emerge as the future alternative to crude oil.

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Iran to attend 38th UNESCO General Conference

Tehran, Oct 31, IRNA – An Iranian delegation will attend the 38th UNESCO General Conference with five scientific, cultural and environmental resolutions, said caretaker of the UN cultural body’s National Commission.

Sa’dollah Nasiri-Qeidari told reporters on Saturday that Minister of Science, Research and Technology heading an Iranian team will take part in UNESCO’s biennial meeting slated for November 3-18, 2015 in Paris.

Noting that all participating countries in the General Conference will defend their proposed resolutions, he said, ‘All our resolutions have been approved and are now on General Conference’s agenda.’

Nasiri further noted that one of the resolutions pertains to culture and rejection of violence against culture of countries as certain countries’ cultural monuments are currently under attack.

‘We have also presented resolutions on social and natural sciences,’ he said, noting that another resolution deals with computer games promoting violence and war which run against UNESCO peaceful objectives.

Currently, some 49 Iranian cultural monuments are lining up for global registration but since UNESCO set the quota of one registration for a country each year in 2007, the country’s registration process faced limitations, Nasiri said.

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Iran, Indonesia to develop cooperation in field of human resources

Tehran, Oct 31, IRNA – Deputy Minister of Cooperative, Labor and Social Welfare Mohammad Taqi Hosseini expressed Iran’s readiness to develop ties in the field of cooperative, labor and social welfare with Indonesia.

Hosseini, who is in Jakarta, capital of Indonesia, to attend the third conference of labor ministers of OIC member states, made the remarks in a meeting with the Indonesian minister of labor.

Referring to successful experiences of Iranian companies in offering technical and engineering services in many Central Asian and African states, Hosseini expressed hope bilateral relations in this field could be developed between Iran and Indonesia.

The deputy minister by referring to Iran’s constructive experiences in holding technical and vocational courses underlined Tehran’s readiness to have close cooperation in this field with Indonesia.

Hosseini also on bahel of the Iranian minister of labor invited the Indonesian labor minister to pay a visit to Iran and expressed hope that the two ministers in their future meeting would draw a framework for joint cooperation in the field of human resources.

Indonesian Minister of Manpower and Transmigration Muhammad Hanif Dhakiri, referring to amendment of labor law in Indonesia over the past months said that upon new law presence and activities of foreign skilled work forces in the country has been facilitated, adding ‘Considering high skill of Iranian human resources, we invited them to come to Indonesia and work here.’

Hanif underlined that the two countries may exchange their experiences and knowledge in the field of technical and vocational courses.

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Kazakhstan pavilion becomes best in EXPO 2015

01.11.2015 – Kazakhstan’s expo pavilion is among the top three in the category ‘Best representation of theme and content’ at Expo 2015 in Milan. It was one of the most visited pavilions at the exhibition with about 5,000 daily visitors. As the organizers counted more than a million guests paid it a visit since it was opened.

Anuarbek Musin, Commissioner General, Kazakhstan National Section, Expo 2015, said: I was overwhelmed with emotions, I felt like I fulfilled my duty to my motherland. I believe that we should share this moment with all the people of Kazakhstan, because it is a victory for our country. We entered the top three in the main nomination of “EXPO-2015”, under the theme ‘Feeding the planet. Energy for Life.’

Exterior architectural design of the Kazakh pavilion was made in the shape of wheat, which is country’s one of main agricultural crops. The content of the pavilion was represented by six areas devoted to agriculture, livestock, aquaculture, environment, and facts about Kazakhstan. Interactive and multimedia technologies were widely used at the expositions to engage the visitors in action.

Raikhan Dilmagambetova, Director, Kazakhstan Pavilion, said: “Each visitor, every viewer gets a lot of pleasure from learning more about our history and culture. We have a lot of new technologies; agriculture and aquaculture have been represented very well. Feeding the planet with environmentally friendly products is the main idea and is our priority and also we treat visitors with mare’s milk every day.”

Besides Kazakhstan different awards were given to the UK’s Pavilion in the form of a buzzing hive, German pavilion made as meadows, the wooden playground of the Japanese Pavilion, French pavilion in the form of a traditional covered market and others, all those who made the exhibition memorable.

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Lancashire Blackburn Library to host major conference on Islamophobia

29 Oct 2015, Lancashire, England (IINA) – Blackburn Library, which is located in town hall street, Lancashire North West England, is to host a major conference on Islamophobia next month, Lancashire Telegraph online news reported.

The Blackburn working group of national organization Muslim Engagement and Development, known as MEND, organizes the evening seminar, which will take place on Friday, November 20.

A cross-section of influential East Lancashire Muslims, community leaders, local businesses, women’s groups, cohesion groups and other significant community figures will attend the conference.

It marks November being Islamophobia Awareness Month. Keynote speaker will be Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw.

Also speaking at the event will be Josh Durham from Victims’ Voice and MEND Chief Executive Sufyan Ismail. MEND is a specialist Muslim organization dedicated to tackle and educate the general public on Islamophobia.

It also advocates in Westminster, and works on grass roots community empowerment across the UK and in the European Union.

MEND gave oral testimony in the Leveson Inquiry on press ethics, it sits on the crown prosecution service’ national hate crime sub-panel, and works with police forces across the UK to reduce the number of Islamophobic attacks.

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Malaysia-OIC trade to climb 19% this year: Minister

Thursday 29 Oct 2015, Kuala Lumpur (IINA) – Malaysia’s International Trade and Industry (MITI) Minister Mustapa Mohamed said the bilateral trade between Malaysia and other member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is expected to increase by 19 percent by the end of this year and by 25 percent next year, BERNAMA reported.

“Today, OIC countries’ share of global merchandise trade is still low. We are still trading with other countries (non-Islamic nations).

“Because of this, Malaysia has successfully signed a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Turkey and Pakistan as a catalyst to boost bilateral trade between the Muslim nations,” he said.

Mustapa said Muslim nations had much to offer to the world, as they always have, from knowledge and resources to culture and products.

“And now, the Muslim world also has big opportunity in the halal economy and in trade and investment in halal goods and services.

“This opportunity should not be missed by OIC nations as many non-Islamic nations are already seeing the profit in this industry and becoming active in it,” he said after launching the OIC-Asia Trade and Economic Forum 2015 here on Thursday.

He said the event was not just an opportunity to foster trade and development, but also to build and reinforce the ability and desire of Muslims globally to contribute to the economic well-being and growth.

Mustapa said Muslim nations had a lot of room to improve in terms of products and services to enable them to diversify into new markets.

“We would like to encourage more Muslim companies from OIC countries to come to Malaysia to set up business here,” he said.

It was reported earlier that between January and May this year, Malaysia’s total trade with OIC countries was valued at $15.55 billion, down 19.7 percent from $19.37 billion in the same period in 2014.

Total exports to OIC countries for the first five months of 2015 amounted to $8.20 billion, a drop of 20.5 per cent from $10.33 billion in the same period in 2014.

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Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ launches Islamic finance business in Dubai

Thursday 29 Oct 2015, Dubai, (IINA) – The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ (BTMU), the banking arm of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group’s (MUFG), has launched Islamic finance business through its Dubai branch based in Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), Gulf News reported.

The Islamic window of the DIFC branch is intending to offer a number of Islamic products such as deposits, loans and trade finance solutions, said Shichito Tobari, regional head for the Middle East and general manager of the Dubai branch.

MUFG’s Islamic Window is intends to offer Islamic finance solutions for its existing customers and new customers across Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) from its DIFC branch.

“We are the first Japanese bank in the region to offer Islamic finance solutions from our branch located in the region. With our presence on the ground, we expect to reach to a significant number of customers,” said Tobari.

On the lending side of the business, the bank has plans to offer both bilateral loans and is keen on participating in syndication deals as opportunities arise. The bank said it believes, Islamic finance offers big growth opportunities.

“This launch reflects the size of the Islamic finance industry in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the fact it is an area of finance that is growing much faster than conventional financial services. Introducing an Islamic Finance proposition in the Middle East made sense as it ensures proximity to our clients in the EMEA region, who are increasingly requesting these products,” said Tobari.

The launch of Islamic finance business through its DIFC branch, according to Tobari is a continuation of its presence in the Middle East where it has been active for nearly 90 years and of its tradition of leading the way in Islamic finance since 2008 started in Malaysia.

“This latest move demonstrates MUFG’s commitment to both EMEA and the Islamic Finance sector where we see great growth potential. It will also help towards establishing Dubai as one of the leading global hubs for the Islamic economy and MUFG’s robust balance sheet enables us to have a strong and stable presence in this market,” he said.

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Ezdan Hotel offers 150 specially-equipped rooms

MENAFN – Gulf Times – 29/10/2015 – Ezdan Hotel is offering 150 specially-equipped hotel rooms to players for the IPC Athletic World Championships, currently being held in Doha.

Ezdan Holding Group has signed an agreement with a committee of IPC Athletics World Championships to be one of the official sponsors for the sports event, which will conclude on Saturday.

Ezdan Hotel, based in Al Dafna, includes 150 rooms furnished with equipment and devices specifically designed for serving guests with special needs, which qualified it to gain satisfaction of the assessment committee of the organisation responsible for holding the championship.

The equipment for those with special needs include devices to help persons with hearing impairment and vibration devices that can be put under the pillows instead of the room ring and flashlight working as the fire alarm, a spokesperson for Ezdan Holding said.

“The Ezdan chain of hotels works in line with Ezdan Holding Group’s vision, which aims to serve the community, especially the disabled. We strive to promote this segment of the society to the best of our ability in accordance with the national vision, and out of our keenness to instil social solidarity values,” according to Nasser al-Abdulla, deputy Group chief executive.

“We are proud of what the hotel chain has achieved in advanced technology equipment suitable for the diverse needs of persons with disabilities. It makes our hotel the ideal destination for hosting athletes of the IPC Athletics World Championships, a sporting event we are proud to support, especially that it is the first of its kind in the Middle East,” Hasib Kayali, general manager of Ezdan Hotels, said.

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Georgetown Univ in Qatar researchers conduct survey on food waste

MENAFN – Gulf Times – 29/10/2015 – Researchers at Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) are seeking to ascertain how much food is thrown away in Qatar and why it is discarded.

“Help us by documenting your food waste,” says Dr Zeynep Topaloglu, assistant professor at GU-Q and co-lead principal investigator of the Safeguarding Food and Environment in Qatar (SAFE-Q) project in her invitation to participate in the new research.

“In Qatar, more than half of the municipal waste generated in the country contains discarded food. In a world where one in nine people is hungry, where political unrest and natural disasters are impacting global food security, these statistics are unsustainable and shocking, requiring us to start taking action to understand why it’s happening and to find ways to prevent and reduce food waste,” explains Dr Topaloglu.

“Hardly any research on food waste has been undertaken in Qatar, so SAFE-Q is trying to fill this gap by conducting research on food waste at both the distribution and consumption stages of the food supply chain. Georgetown University, in collaboration with partner universities, has already initiated research, which focuses on the supply side,” adds the researcher.

“This survey aims to collect the data, which will help us understand the food waste occurring on the consumer side. We are unable to do this without the voluntary support and participation of the local community.”

On the project’s various online and social media outlets, members of the community in Qatar can find out how to enrol in the voluntary study, which is available in both English and Arabic.

The researchers ask participants to fill out multiple surveys over a period of one week about food waste that happens after purchasing it.

The benefits of participating, says Dr Topaloglu, are many. “People who take part in this study will be able to become more self-aware about how much food they waste and will hopefully realise that it can be avoided.

“Secondly, and this is the bigger picture, they’re helping raise national awareness about food waste, and through their survey responses used in this research, they will eventually help reduce Qatar’s food waste. And considering more than 90% of food consumed in Qatar is imported, that’s a critical contribution.”

Research data, findings as well as lessons learned from this project will also be shared with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which is currently undertaking a food waste reduction initiative in Saudi Arabia. Those interested in finding out more about participation in the survey can visit the project website at https://blogs.commons.georgetown.edu/safeq/

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Malaysia seeks status as halal pharmaceutical regional hub

KUALA LUMPUR 28th October 2015 (WAM) — Malaysia has called on global pharmaceutical producers to consider the country as the new regional hub to cater for the expanding global halal market.

In making the call Deputy Prime Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said local industry players should also keep track of the latest know-how and technologies.

“Local industry players should double their efforts to position Malaysia at the forefront of the global healthcare and pharmaceutical industry” he said when opening the Halal Initiatives in Healthcare Industry Forum here Tuesday.

Also present were Malaysian International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed and Halal Industry Development Corporation Chief Executive Officer Jamil Bidin state news agency Bernama said.

Ahmad Zahid said the global demand for halal pharmaceuticals is estimated to be worth a staggering RM349 billion (US82 billion) but the current supply is estimated at only RM8.5 million (US2 million) leaving a very big gap of RM340 million (US80 million) worth of business opportunities waiting to be explored.

“There is certainly a huge opportunity here with a very promising future and this is where Malaysia holds some of the keys. As at August this year there were already 110 Halal-certified pharmaceutical manufacturers in Malaysia including 24 export-ready manufacturers.

“Malaysia is also one of the few countries in the region that have been accepted into the Pharmaceutical Inspection Cooperation Scheme.

“This indicates that the local industry has established high manufacturing standards” he said adding this would further open up Malaysia exports to member countries of the scheme including members of the European Union Australia and Canada.

“One potential area that is ripe for exploration is herbal-based food supplements and over-the-counter medicines. With the right ingredients these products can be converted into halal products.

“There are also opportunities to capitalise on Malaysia’s diverse natural flora and fauna to develop resource-based bio-generic drugs. Malaysia is one of the world’s 12 most bio-diverse countries and offers high potential for sourcing active compounds for healing and wellness products” he said.

On Halal tourism Ahmad Zahid said Malaysia is the top destination and as a leader the nation could certainly complement the wider medical tourism sector especially for Muslims worldwide.

Malaysia expects to see overall arrivals of more than 930,000 medical tourists with estimated revenue reaching US233.99 million (RM1 billion) annually he said.

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Egypt: Tourism chamber urges members to avoid unlicensed restaurants

MENAFN – Daily News Egypt – 29/10/2015- The Chamber of Tourism Companies and Agencies requested members to avoid doing business with restaurants that are not licensed by the Ministry of Tourism to increase the services provided to tourists during their visit to Egypt.

According to an internal publication by the chamber, many “local restaurants are unsafe for tourists, as they do not adhere to the standards of quality and food safety”.

Wagdi El-Kerdany, former chairman of the Chamber of Restaurants, said a large percentage of international restaurants operating in Egypt are not licensed by the Ministry of Tourism, and they are subject to the Ministry of Local Development, which does not have the experience and competence to oversee the quality and safety of food.

The Egyptian government’s budget looses, as a result of international restaurants evading paying sales taxes, exceed EGP 1.5bn per year, according to Kerdany.

Tourist restaurants and cafes are under the supervision of the Ministry of Tourism, contrary to the restaurants that are subject to the Ministry of Local Development, said the former chairman.

“There is no fair competition between the two parties; as tourist restaurants commit to standards that raise the cost of the service and are committed to paying taxes, contrary to restaurants that are registered with Municipal Councils,” he added.

Kerdany said international restaurants operating in Egypt should be subject to the supervision of the Ministry of Tourism, so that resources of the state are not wasted and taxes are not lost in exchange for the large profits achieved by these restaurants in the Egyptian market.

The Chamber of Restaurants had pressured the Ministry of Tourism in 2010 to issue a decision pertaining to the standards of restaurants, their required licences, their work conditions and the services provided by them. However, according to Kerdany, that decision has not been activated to date.

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Malaysia Airlines brings the best of British cuisine to Platinum Lounge

Sepang, 30 October 2015 – Malaysia Airlines and the British High Commission have collaborated with Michelin-star chef Gary Rhodes to offer First Class passengers and Enrich Platinum members, distinctive and delicious British cuisine. The collaboration is part of the British High Commission’s Food is GREAT campaign which has Gary Rhodes as an ambassador.

The collaboration will see Rhodes and the airline’s chef working together to serve a special menu exclusively at the Platinum Lounge in KL International Airport (KLIA) for two weeks beginning 2 November 2015. The campaign is part of MAB’s push to become more customer focused by offering new personalized and exciting products and services.

The guests will be treated to a 3-course meal which includes Pan Fried Sea Bass with Spring Onion and Creamy Potato, Grilled Sirloin Steak with Buttered Spinach, Tomatoes, Black Olive and Basil Cream Hollandaise, Fried Bread and Butter Pudding, White Chocolate, Date Syrup and Vanilla Ice Cream.

Malaysia Airlines Head of Marketing, Charles McKee said, “We are excited to have been selected by the British High Commission as the exclusive airline partner for the ASEAN leg of the Food is GREAT road show. The special menu reflects our new innovative dining options to our lounge guests. We look forward to further elevating our First Class passengers’ dining experience on-ground before they continue their gastronomic journey on-board the A380. The collaboration will also give a taste to the local flavours our guests will enjoy on their travel destination, London.”

Last week, Rhodes held a cooking demonstration in front of a group of bloggers together with Malaysia Airlines’ in-house chef, Chef Zahiddin Dris to discuss menu ideas during his stopover in Malaysia.

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Malaysia Airlines commences partnership with Universal Charter Malaysia

Sepang, 28 October 2015: Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB) today announced that it has entered into a partnership with Universal Charter Sdn Bhd to provide scheduled air charter services between Kota Kinabalu to sectors in China beyond the airline’s network.

Commencing from 15 December 2015 until 31 March 2016, the agreement will see 180 charter flights being operated from Tianjin, Nanning and Chengdu to Kota Kinabalu, connecting Chinese tourists to Malaysia.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed today to establish the service-user business arrangements.

The MOU was signed by Proteek Sengupta, Head of Strategy and Planning MAB and Dato’ Rashid Khan, Chairman Universal Charter and witnessed by Yazid Mohamed, Manager Charter MAB and Tan Han Soon, CEO Universal Charter.

Representatives from Malaysia Tourism Promotion Berhad were also present at the signing.

Proteek Sengupta said “We are excited to begin a partnership with Universal Charters which will enable Malaysia Airlines to strengthen its presence in China. This makes good business sense as we will be able to operate and build presence in one of the biggest tourism markets in the world.”

“The collaboration will provide a seamless travel solution with the best travelling experience to our customers. Utilising our B737-800 for this service, passengers will experience better overall in-flight comfort,” he added.

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Flight Club Takes Off at KL International Airport

29 October 2015 – Flight Club, the latest innovation launched by Plaza Premium Group, is a brand new dining concept unique to the airport environment. Its debut in KL International Airport (KLIA), Malaysia, was on October 15, 2015.

The brand concept, inspired by herbs and seeds, promotes healthy dining, especially when travelling, and was developed with a thorough understanding of the travellers’ needs and requirements, as well as a study of the current global culinary trends.

Located on the Mezzanine Level in the Satellite Building (International Departure) of KLIA, just across Plaza Premium Lounge, Flight Club showcases an enticing menu of western and international cuisine, with either herbs or seeds, or both, being featured in each dish.

Emphasis on the use of herbs and seeds, such as rosemary, lemongrass, thyme, oregano, basil, chia seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, as well as natural and local ingredients is very evident in the creation of the dishes and beverages served in Flight Club. This extols the benefits of using these versatile components whilst creating a culinary educational experience for the guests travelling through the airport.

Mr Song Hoi-see, Founder and CEO of Plaza Premium Group, comments, “Flight Club is the latest addition to our series of airport dining brands and we are indeed very proud to launch the very first Flight Club in KL International Airport – our maiden location 17 years ago”.

“Flight Club is indeed a special one; it is unique to the airport and not a replicate of chained outlets everywhere in town. We will continue to develop this brand in leading airports to promote healthy dining and position it as the first airport-born international F&B concept, inspired by herbs and seeds, encouraging all to travel and eat well,” Mr Song added.

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Sama-Sama Hotel KLIA – Three-Time Best Luxury Airport Hotel Winner

28 October 2015 — Sama-Sama Hotel, was one of over 1,000 hotels from 145 countries, nominated to participate in the world’s most prestigious Awards initiative for luxury Hotel in 2015. The five-star Hotel situated in the KL International Airport, once again won the Best Luxury Airport Hotel by the World Luxury Hotels Awards.

The ninth annual World Luxury Hotel Awards was celebrated at the Harbour Grand, Hong Kong. The accolade was presented to Richard L. Dusome, the Area General Manager for the Sama-Sama Hotels Group during the gala dinner ceremony. World Luxury Hotel Awards events offer hoteliers with a unique opportunity to savour and celebrate their achievements of the past year with their industry peers.

Established in 2006, the World Luxury Hotel Awards recognizes the worldwide luxury hotel industry and legendary hotels with respect to overall service excellence. Award winners raised the bar of service delivery within the industry ever since as some of the world’s top hotels compete annually to receive top honours.

The World Luxury Hotel Awards is positioned as the pinnacle of achievement for luxury hotels worldwide. The Awards account for over 50 categories in the luxury hotel industry and include amongst others Luxury Private Island Resorts, Casino Hotels, City Hotels, and Lodges. Winners are purely judged on service delivery and effective management voted for by International tour operators, travel agents and hotel guests who get the opportunity to cast their valuable votes annually, making the process fair and unbiased.

The accolade marks the achievement and consistency of the Hotel in delivering high service standards and reinforcing the Hotel’s vision to be a world-class airport hotel. The brand, Sama-Sama meaning “togetherness” embodies the inclusiveness of differing peoples and cultures. It is also an expression of the depth of the Malaysian welcome.

“We are deeply honored and humbled to be awarded Best Luxury Airport Hotel three times in a row. The recognition is an important milestone for us as it signifies the great amount of effort and team work that the team contributes to achieve such results. We are consistently delivering high service standards to maintain our position against the world’s top hotels.” said Richard Dusome, Area General Manager of Sama-Sama Hotels Group.

The award-wining Hotel with 442 non-smoking guest rooms and suites, is located adjacent to the KL International Airport’s main terminal building and is connected via a sheltered sky bridge with a 24-hour buggy facility. The Sama-Sama hotel offers an unparalleled relaxing stop-over experience to both business and leisure travelers.

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Azerbaijani, Belarusian tourism officials meet in Baku

Baku, October 30, AZERTAC – The first Azerbaijani-Belarusian Tourism Forum has been held in Baku organized by TsentrKurort, the largest tourist company in Belarus in partnership with the Office of the President of the Republic of Belarus, Embassy of Belarus to Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Azerbaijan Tourism Association.

Belarus Ambassador Gennady Ahramovich stressed the importance of organizing reciprocal tours. “There are all possibilities – direct flights, representative offices of the two countries for getting this done,” said Ahramovich. He expressed confidence that the forum will give impetus to the development of tourism in both countries.

A promotional video about the historical and cultural monuments in Azerbaijan was screened at the forum. Tour operator of the Office of the President of the Republic of Belarus held a presentation of the documentary “Welcome to Belarus”. The Belarusian delegation drew the audience`s attention to historical and cultural heritage and tourism potential of Belarus.

The event was attended by more than 20 Azerbaijani tourism companies.

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Azerbaijan tourism to be promoted at 18 international exhibitions in 2016

Baku, October 27, AZERTAC – Azerbaijan’s tourism potential will be demonstrated at 18 international exhibitions in 2016, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

The ministry said among these exhibitions are “The New York Times Travel Show” (New-York), “EMITT East Mediterranean Tourism and Travel Exhibition” (Istanbul), “HT&T Iran Hotel, Travel & Tourism International Exhibition” (Tehran), “BIT” (Milan), “ITB Berlin” (Berlin), “MITT” (Moscow), “COTTM China Outbound Travel and Tourism Market” (Beijing), “KİTF Kazakhstan International Tourism & Travel Fair” (Almaty), “ATM” (Dubai), “KOTFA” (Seoul), “JATA” (Tokyo), “Top Resa” (Paris), “TT Warsaw İnternational Travel Show” (Warsaw) and “WTM” (London) exhibitions.

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ISESCO organizes awareness days on goals of the Unite4Heritage compaign

Rabat 22/10/2015 The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), will hold an awareness day on the goals of the global coalition for heritage protection (Unite4Hertitage), at its headquarters, on 28 October 2015.

The event is aimed to sensitize the various segments of society to the importance of cultural and civilizational heritage, strengthen the role of the media in publicizing the issues of universal heritage, encourage civil society organizations’ involvement in the protection of cultural heritage against destruction factors, increase the awareness of individuals of its importance, and urge the international community to protect cultural property during armed conflicts and wars.

ISESCO Director General, Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, and the Director of the UNESCO Office in Rabat, Mr Michael Millward, will preside over the event’s opening ceremony to be attended by several of diplomatic, cultural, intellectual, educational and religious figures, representatives of regional and national institutions and organizations, and delegates of many local and international media.

This awareness day’s agenda features a visit to the archaeological sites of Chellah and Hassan Tower in Rabat, and the organization of a painting contest at the Orangers high School, Regional Academy of Rabat-Salé-Zemmour-Zaer, followed by an award conferral ceremony.

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Towards a Middle Stance Culture Favouring Muslims Societies’ Development

Rabat 21/10/2015 – The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), in cooperation with the Ministry of Heritage and Culture of the Sultanate of Oman and in coordination with the General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), will hold the 9th session of the Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers (ICCM) on the theme “Towards a Middle Stance Culture Favouring Muslims Societies’ Development”, in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, on 2-4 November 2015, which will be attended by the ministers of culture of the OIC member States along with a host of experts and representatives of the Arab, Islamic and international organizations concerned with culture affairs.

The Conference will discuss the Broad Lines of a Draft Action Plan for the Promotion of the Role of Cultural Mediation in the Islamic World, and a Study on Western media content on Islam in light of the international law.

As part of its agenda, the Conference will also discuss the Director General’s Report on the Implementation of the Cultural Strategy for the Islamic World and Sector-specific Strategies, namely with regard to ISESCO’s efforts devoted to dialogue and cultural diversity and to refuting media smear campaigns against Islam and Muslims, and to implementing the Islamic Culture Capitals Programme, the Strategy for Islamic Cultural Action outside the Islamic World, the Strategy for ICTs Development in the Islamic World, the Executive Plan for the Initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for Dialogue among Followers of Religions and Cultures, and the Islamic Declaration on Cultural Rights.

On the first day of the conference, a Ministerial Roundtable will be held on “Promoting Cultural Mediation in the Islamic World.”

The ICCM will also consider the member States national reports on their efforts under the Cultural Strategy for the Islamic World, elect the member of the Consultative Council in charge of implementing the said Strategy, and fix the date and venue of the Conference’s 10th session.

On the sidelines of the Conference, the cultural center of the city of Nizwa will be inaugurated to mark the city’s celebration as the Arab Region’s Capital of Islamic Culture for 2015.

By convening the 9th session of the ICCM, ISESCO will give a strong impetus to its Cultural Strategy for the Islamic World, which was adopted by Sixth Islamic Summit Conference, held in Dakar in 1991, and whose amended version was adopted by the 4th ICCM held in Algeria in 2004.

For the record, ISESCO held the first session of the Conference in Dakar, Republic of Senegal, in January 1998; the second in Rabat, Kingdom of Morocco, in November 1998; the third in Doha, State of Qatar, in December 2001, the fourth in Algiers, People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, in December 2004; the fifth in Tripoli, Libya, in November 2007; the sixth in Baku, Republic of Azerbaijan, in October 2009, the seventh in Algiers, People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, in December 2011, and the 8th in Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in January 2014.

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WB to provide $100m to improve technical, vocational skills

DHAKA, Oct 31, 2015 (BSS) – The World Bank (WB) approved additional US$100 million financing to scale up its support to strengthen technical and vocational education in Bangladesh. This financing will enable 200,000 poor students to complete vocational training and diploma courses, said a WB press release today.

With this additional financing to the ongoing Skills and Training Enhancement Project (STEP), the WB’s total support to the project stands at $179 million, with co-financing of $16.7 million in grants from the government of Canada.

The project offers vocational training opportunities that respond to market demand to the poor.

To date, more than 110,000 diploma students from low-income households have received stipends in 93 polytechnic institutions. In addition, nearly 70,000short-course trainees received free 6-month vocational training in 38 trades including electrical, automotive and garments. Within six months of completing the courses, 42 percent of the trainees were employed.

“Bangladesh needs to create more and better jobs for the 1.3 million youths entering the labor force every year to accelerate economic growth,” said Johannes Zutt, WB Country Director for Bangladesh.

“The additional financing will continue to improve the quality of skills training and employability of youth in local and overseas job markets. Strong market-oriented skills will help the youths find better jobs and higher earnings,” Johannes Zutt added.

According to the WB, the additional financing will expand coverage of institutional development grants to public and private polytechnic institutions. With the financing, an increased number of private and public polytechnics will be able to improve classrooms and laboratories, and establish industrial partnerships for internships, job placement and job counseling services. The additional financing will scale up the coverage of short-course trainings.

“Strong polytechnic institutions can make a meaningful dent in the job market, when their offered courses match with the market needs,” said Mokhelsur Rahman, WB Team Leader, Skills and Training Enhancement Project.

“For the first time in the country, the project launched the Recognition of Prior learning (RPL) to assess and certify informal workforce, with no prior formal skills training or certification. Now, the project will also start an apprenticeship program in the secondary level vocational training program,” he added.

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Bangladesh urged to protect coastal communities by planting trees

KHULNA, Oct 31, 2015 (BSS) – Speakers at a conference here today on “Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Action (CCA)” said coastal communities can protect themselves from climate change impact through creating coastal green belt by tree plantation.

Putting emphasis on more tree plantation in the coastal region, the speakers said 70 percent water, which comes from rainwater and ice melting from the Himalayas are going into sea. If we can’t keep it in the upstream then coastal community will face severe salinity and waterlogging, they added.

Funded by European Union and Concern Worldwide, a Dutch organization for scientific research and technical assistance, and Jagrata Juba Sangha (JJS), a renowned social development organization, arranged the third regional conference at City Inn here.

Khulna Divisional Commissioner Md Abdus Samad addressed the conference as the chief guest presided over by Executive Director of JJS ATM Zakir Hossain.

Joint Secretary of Environment and Forest Ministry Dr Nurul Quadir and Assistant Country Director of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Khurshid Alam addressed the meeting as special guests. Md. Mahmudun Nabi Khan, head of Coastal Program of Concern Worldwide, delivered the welcome speech.

Professor Dr Dilip Kumar Dutta, Environmental Science Department of Khulna University, presented the keynote paper.

Abdus Samad said that no settlement should be built after filling up ponds and water bodies, rather there should initiatives for their preservation.

He said NGOs should come forward to supplement the government initiatives to preserve water bodies in the coastal region.

He recommended Khulna University (KU) and Khulna University of Engineering and Technology (KUET) to initiate research based on these issues.

In the conference, papers on different issues were presented by Associate Professor Dr Tanjil Sowgat of URP of Khulna University, Project Coordinator of Concern Worldwide Palash Kanti Dhar and Project Coordinator of JJS Zia Ahmed.

Khulna Bureau Chief of Kaler Kantha Gauranga Nandi, District women Affairs Officer Nargis Fatema Jamin, Unicef Child Safety Program Officer Md. Jamil Hassan, Executive Engineer of Public Health Department Md. Ali Asgor, and Superintendent Engineer of Khulna Development Authority Kazi Md. saberul Alam, among others, addressed the conference.

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Bangladesh needs citizens’ platform to help achieve SDGs

DHAKA, Oct 31, 2015 (BSS) – A citizens’ platform is seen vital to help achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with an observation that these goals should be considered as the citizens’ agenda as well.

The observation came at a high-profile dialogue on SDGs where participants recommended strongly that a citizen’s platform should be established to help expedite the government initiatives and the activities of all other stakeholders to attain the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.

Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) in association with Southern Voice on Post-MDG International Development Goals and in partnership with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), Bangladesh Office, organised the dialogue on “National Level Implementation Challenges of 2030 Agenda,” at BRAC Centre Inn on Saturday.

The major objective of the dialogue was to call together a wide range of stakeholders to deliberate on ways to align SDG implementation with national planning and policy processes in Bangladesh.

BRAC founder chairperson Sir Fazle Hasan Abed presided over the dialogue. Planning Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal addressed the dialogue as the chief guest while Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque was the special guest.

UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Dhaka Robert Watkins, former advisor to a caretaker government AB Mirza Azizul Islam and former finance minister M Syeduzzaman were among the participants. CPD Distinguished Fellow Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, also the Chair of Southern Voice on Post-MDGs, presented the keynote paper.

Sir Abed said the 2030 agenda for sustainable developments are not only an agenda belonging to either of the government, private sector or civil societies but those should be considered as the citizens’ agenda.

“Every citizen should be informed about the SDGs that the government should publicize as much as possible for increasing awareness about the goals and ensuring successful delivery of the targets in the context of Bangladesh,” he said.

Dr Debapriya emphasized on management, coordination and leadership issues for SDG implementation. He said adequacy of financing and other means of implementation including systemic issues, data-related issues and capacity of the national statistical agencies and partnership and stakeholder participation should also be addressed.

He recommended establishment of a citizens’ platform alongside political will at all levels in favour of implementation to ensure strengthened accountability and legitimacy and to address systemic issues.

Following introductory remarks by CPD Executive Director Professor Mustafizur Rahman, the keynote presentation was complemented by discussants Director, International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) and Dr Md Khairul Islam, Country Representative, WaterAid Bangladesh.

The participants observed that in addition to addressing the weaker areas from the MDGs, particular emphasis should be laid on the SDG-16 on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and ensuring accountability at all levels.

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Tourism to generate 1.7m jobs by 2020

MENAFN – Arab News – 30/10/2015 – RIYADH: Job opportunities in the tourism sector of the Kingdom are expected to reach 1.7 million by 2020 according to the Tourism Information and Research Center (MAS) the statistical division of the the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH).

‘This total figure includes the number of direct and indirect jobs in the labor market in the tourism sector and other sectors associated and benefiting from tourism in the Kingdom’ the latest report released by MAS said.

The statistical report further said that the number of jobs in the tourism accommodation sector in 2015 will go up to 113048 and this number is expected to increase to 129526 jobs by 2017 due to the execution of a number of hotel mega-projects across the Kingdom especially in the two Holy Cities of Makkah and Madinah and in the capital city Riyadh.

MAS statistics further indicated that the number of direct job opportunities in the tourism sector until the end of 2014 reached over 795000 and the number is estimated to rise to over 840000 by the end of 2015 while the number of indirect jobs by the end of 2014 reached over 397000 and is expected to exceed 420000 by the end of 2015.

The total of direct and indirect jobs was 1192285 by the end of 2014 and this number is predicted to rise to 1262153 by the end of 2015.

Moreover according to the report the tourism accommodation sector in the Kingdom is witnessing rapid growth in investments as the number of tourism accommodation facilities (hotels furnished apartments hotel villas hotel apartments tourism inns roadside hotels and resorts) reached 3710 by the end of 2014 with 1222 hotels and 2488 furnished apartments.

Keeping with this trend the number of hotel rooms in the Kingdom has reached 299500 and furnished apartments 87050.

Notably tourism is currently the second most important economic sector in the Kingdom where Saudization has reached 28 percent and the estimated number of people working in the tourism sector by 2025 is predicted to reach 317352 compared to 94249 in 2014.

According to industry experts the tourism sector has potential to create concrete change in the national economy and emerge as the future alternative to crude oil.

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Egypt- Tourism chamber urges members to avoid unlicensed restaurants

MENAFN – Daily News Egypt – 29/10/2015 – The Chamber of Tourism Companies and Agencies requested members to avoid doing business with restaurants that are not licensed by the Ministry of Tourism to increase the services provided to tourists during their visit to Egypt.

According to an internal publication by the chamber, many “local restaurants are unsafe for tourists, as they do not adhere to the standards of quality and food safety”.

Wagdi El-Kerdany, former chairman of the Chamber of Restaurants, said a large percentage of international restaurants operating in Egypt are not licensed by the Ministry of Tourism, and they are subject to the Ministry of Local Development, which does not have the experience and competence to oversee the quality and safety of food.

The Egyptian government’s budget looses, as a result of international restaurants evading paying sales taxes, exceed EGP 1.5bn per year, according to Kerdany.

Tourist restaurants and cafes are under the supervision of the Ministry of Tourism, contrary to the restaurants that are subject to the Ministry of Local Development, said the former chairman.

“There is no fair competition between the two parties; as tourist restaurants commit to standards that raise the cost of the service and are committed to paying taxes, contrary to restaurants that are registered with Municipal Councils,” he added.

Kerdany said international restaurants operating in Egypt should be subject to the supervision of the Ministry of Tourism, so that resources of the state are not wasted and taxes are not lost in exchange for the large profits achieved by these restaurants in the Egyptian market.

The Chamber of Restaurants had pressured the Ministry of Tourism in 2010 to issue a decision pertaining to the standards of restaurants, their required licences, their work conditions and the services provided by them. However, according to Kerdany, that decision has not been activated to date.

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World conference in Istanbul discusses leveraging Islamic finance for SMEs

Istanbul, Turkey, 23.10.2015 – President of the Republic of Turkey HE Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday attended the official opening of the International SMEs Conference, held within the framework of the G20 meetings taking place in Istanbul under the Turkish Presidency.

The conference, which was attended by many international financial institutions, business owners, investors and Islamic finance leaders, was jointly organized by the World Bank, Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Group, Turkish Prime Ministry’s Under-secretariat for Treasury, as well as the country’s industrialists and businessmen’s association (TUMSIAD).

In his opening remarks, President Erdogan praised the role of the IDB Group in supporting the Islamic banking industry in Turkey, noting that the Group contributed this year US$ 570 million to finance two important projects i.e., the construction of the country’s Vakifbank, and provision of a credit line to the Export Credit Bank of Turkey to promote SMEs in Turkey and support their competitiveness in global markets.

Addressing the opening ceremony, the IDB Group President, Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali extended appreciation to the Turkish Presidency for having included on G20’s agenda the development of SMEs via Islamic finance. He further highlighted the significance being placed by policy makers across the globe on the pivotal role of SMEs through Islamic finance in enhancing economic growth and alleviating poverty. “SMEs create jobs and foster growth, contribute to political stability and make a significant dent on poverty in every country”, Dr. Ali reiterated adding: “statistics show that SMEs contribute to an estimated 43.5% of the total job opportunities created at international level, a figure that can increase to 57.8% worldwide.”

Elsewhere, the IDB Group President commended the Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI) and the World Bank’s Global Islamic Finance Development Center for their joint study leading to a flagship report on “Leveraging Islamic Finance for SMEs”. He stressed that the report promotes the studies that link financing SMEs to the opportunities provided by the Islamic finance.”I also envisage that this report will bring significant benefits to G20 constituencies, as well as other developing countries, who are interested in leveraging the Islamic financial services industry for stimulating SMEs”, Dr. Ali said.

The IDB Group President then praised the exemplary efforts by the Government of Turkey for establishing the SMEs international forum within the scope of the G20 meeting. He further deliberated on the significance of supporting SMEs and their contribution to job creation and consequently accelerating economic growth. “The major challenge faced by SMEs is access to financing. The need to deal with this challenge better highlights the significance of recognizing the potentials of Islamic finance which can greatly contribute to development of SMEs as it helps in promotion of collective cooperation for the sake of production and investment”.

Concluding his speech, Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali called for the establishment of a working group to exchange expertise and develop innovative Islamic financial instruments.

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IDB Group President leads high-level delegation to 11th World Islamic Economic Forum

Wednesday, 28 October 2015 – Jeddah, KSA- The President of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Group, Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali, will lead a high-level delegation to the 11th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF). The Forum is scheduled to take place from 3-5 November, 2015, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Dr. Ali will deliver a keynote speech at the inaugural session and participate in a number of side events, including the one organized by IDB on “Financial Inclusion for Achieving Sustainable Development Goals: Role of Islamic Finance” on 3 November, 2015, at 15:30 – 17:00.

The IDB Group event is to be held in the context of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York, in September 2015. The Summit on SDGs called on countries to work towards the reduction of extreme poverty by 2030, eliminate violence, reduce inequality and ensure inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

As Islamic finance has gained footprint in many countries worldwide, its various components have strong potential to promote financial inclusion for achieving SDGs. For this reason, the side event will discuss how Islamic finance can be leveraged to boost financial inclusion for the realization of SDGs. It will also discuss the contribution of financial institutions such as the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI), and identify the opportunities presented by Islamic finance in enhancing financial inclusion and narrowing inequality.

“We look forward to a robust discussion on how to utilize Islamic Finance in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals”, said Dr. Ahmad Ali.

“IDB Group has garnered enormous experience over the years in utilizing Islamic Finance to mobilize resources, and finance development projects that are relevant to the SDGs. We are willing to make our wealth of experience available to the participants at the World Islamic Economic Forum, for the benefit of humanity”, he added.

The IDB Group’s event will be moderated by Prof. Savas Alpay (Chief Economist of IDB) and the panelists will comprise of Prof. Azmi Omar, Director General of the Islamic Research and Training Institute – IDB Group’s research and training arm; Mr. Sean Kidney, CEO and Co-founder of Climate Bonds- United Kingdom; Dr. Imran Lum, Associate Director of Islamic Capital Markets – National Bank of Australia; Mr. Tariq Al-Rifai, Author of the Islamic Finance and the New Financial System; and Mr. Harris Irfan, Managing Director of the European Islamic Investment Bank plc- United Kingdom. The panelists will discuss three sub-themes: (i) The role and importance of financial inclusion in achieving SDGs, (ii) The contribution of Islamic Finance in enhancing financial inclusion, and (iii) The role of financial institutions in promoting financial inclusion.

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Jordan acts to stimulate investment, develop transportation sector

Amman, October 31 (Petra)– The government, on Saturday, announced a series of measures to stimulate investment and economic environment in the Kingdom.

During a press conference, Prime Minister, Abdullah Ensour, said the Cabinet has adopted one of the most important decisions and perhaps the most important one for years to grant unprecedented exemptions and facilities to the information technology sector.

According to the new measures IT services sector will take advantage of incentives and exemptions provided by the investment law.

Also, IT sector’s goods and services will be exempted from customs duties and will be subject to zero rate of general sales tax. Their income tax will also be reduced by 30 percent in all areas of the Kingdom for ten years.

He pointed out that this sector does not require a big mineral resources nor capital, but rather knowledge, noting that its also linked to both education and higher education.

The premier added that the 30 percent income tax reduction is an advantage that was only given to the IT sector.

Minister of Information and Communications Technology, Majd Shwaika, said these measures would unleash the Jordanian skills and energies, to contribute to achieving His Majesty the King’s vision by making Jordan a regional hub for information technology, in light of the growth-available environment of this sector,. The IT’s contribution to the national economy constitute between 12-13 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

On the transportation sector, the prime minister noted that its needs to be addressed, pointing out that the state, under these economic conditions, cannot complete the required developments for this sector, so it was better to leave this task to the private sector after being granted necessary exemptions.

He also noted that these exemptions include bus rapid transit (BRT) in Amman and the BRTs between Amman and Zarqa. Their tender will be issued in a month period.

The government will grant additional benefits to the transportation sector, in order to develop and improve the level of services provided to citizens, including exemption companies operating BRTs between cities of customs duties and sales tax.

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Tunisia features in top ten of emerging global property markets

by AfricanManager – Oct 30, 2015 – Emerging markets offer unique and individual challenges for real estate investors, and monitoring data to identify the most popular emerging economies is not an easy task.

However, a new report by real estate researchers at Cushman & Wakefield has ranked five African markets in the top 10 of the most transparent emerging economies.

According to Cushman & Wakefield’s latest annual Emerging and Frontier Markets report (2015), a 55-page study that provides investors with overviews of the office market and relevant property indicators for 42 countries globally – from Angola to Zambia – Africa dominates the top 10 rankings through South Africa (3rd), Ghana (4th), Morocco (8th) and Tunisia (10th) – in addition to Botswana in southern Africa that retains its 2014 top ranking.

Reasons cited for Africa having secured half of the top 10 most attractive emerging market locations include a growing middle class population, better infrastructure and technological improvements in a number of countries possessing transparent real estate markets.

“Emerging markets are often mistakenly viewed as homogenous,” says Richard Middleton, Head of Account Management & Client Services, Global Occupier Services EMEA, Cushman & Wakefield. “However, in reality real-estate dynamics vary considerably as do the sets of risks and opportunities on offer for occupiers across differing geographies and business sectors.”

And, as emerging markets become increasingly integrated into the global economy it’s important to remember the sheer size and diversity of developing economies. Middleton adds: “Africa is a good example of this with countries (across the continent) offering very different operational profiles. Real estate strategies (consequently) need to reflect this.”

One of Africa’s up and coming markets is the Western Regional capital of Sekondi-Takoradi in Ghana. The city’s status has burgeoned in recent years with the discovery of oil in the Western Region, with foreign and local oil companies taking the opportunity to tap the newly discovered ‘black gold’.

Demand for both commercial and residential properties in the city has risen exponentially as a result and with an abundance of other natural resources such as gold, timber and cocoa, Sekondi-Takoradi stands in good stead to be one of the giants of Africa.

The same is true over in Casablanca in Morocco where the country’s industrial and business centre has become home to numerous Moroccan and international companies, taking advantage of its close proximity to Europe and international trade routes.

The dynamic city is increasingly attractive to Morocco’s young population, looking to settle down in a modern area with an abundance of employment opportunities.

The city is seeing a number of commercial development projects taking place to improve the retail and entertainment facilities on offer, additional incentive for savvy property investors.

With pockets of economic growth emerging across the African continent, it’s no surprise that real estate in those markets is beginning to boom. Africa has become particularly appealing to large scale investment from China in 2015, which has brought considerable buoyancy to real estate markets in key investment areas across several African countries.

There is significant growth potential in several of Africa’s emerging property markets that combined with demand levels outstripping supply is likely to see increasing property prices in the near future. However, with rising affluence in key cities that are expanding and growing, buy-to-let investment opportunities will be sharp in the focus of the savvy investor seeking high-yield opportunities.

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Afghanistan Cricket Team Script History With Win Over Zimbabwe Team

Sunday October 25, 2015, Kabul (BNA) The Afghan national cricket team players defeat powerful Zimbabwe national cricket team in the last 50-over match.

Aziz Gharwal in-charge of publication in cricket board told BNA, the first Afghanistan national cricket team begun the match and in all 50 overs made 245 runs by losing 9 wickets, then Zimbabwe cricket team could not complete the given target and accepted his failure.

Nabi Stanekzai, Nabi Esakhail, Noor Ali Zadran and Dawlat Zadran well shining in the completion.

It has been said, Afghanistan cricket team in 5 fifty-over matches has three victory and two losses.

It is the first round in cricket history that a second group team have win against first group team, Gharwal added.

Afghanistan cricket team in twenty-over match will compete with Zimbabwe and the teams will have two others competitions in their program as well, Gharwal concluded.

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Kabul University Launches First Women & Gender Studies Program

Monday October 19, 2015, Kabul (BNA) — On Saturday, the movement toward more opportunities for Afghan women took a step forward with the launch of a master’s degree program focused on Gender and Women’s Studies at Kabul University. The program is the first of its kind in all Afghanistan, where many girls have been — and, in some cases, still are — prohibited from getting any education at all, much less one probing issues related to their gender.

Rola Ghani, the country’s first lady while inaugurating the new program said that women makes half of the population and their role in the society is considered as crucial. Rola Ghani besides asking the students to use the opportunity provided for them in a better way, called education, in particular gender studies in Afghanistan important for having a bright future for the country’s women.

“Women in Afghanistan have had it tough, and we have lost (a lot of opportunities) for children,” said Farima Naderi, a Kabul native who worked with the United Nations to help set up the initiative. “This program … will widen opportunities for Afghan women.” Twenty-eight students in all—18 women and 10 men—have enrolled in the first class of what will be a two-year program at the state-funded university. The mission, according to a United Nations Development Program press release, is “to create a platform for training future advocates of gender equality; generate research on gender, violence against women and underprivileged groups; and raise awareness about men’s and women’s social responsibilities.”

The government of Korea (whose President, Park Geun-hye, is a woman) has funded the program. It will include information on women’s legal rights and what role they can play in reducing poverty, resolving conflicts and taking part in the political process.

“This program will serve as a model that universities throughout the country can replicate … in the future,” Higher Education Minister H.E. Farida Momand said. There have been times in recent Afghan history, of course, when the idea of girls attending school or training female activists might have seemed preposterous.

The Taliban instituted strict laws restricting women’s roles in most all aspects of public life — from voting to jobs to school. In fact, they couldn’t even leave home unless accompanied by a male escort and wearing a burqa, which became a symbol of the Taliban’s repressive regime. Women’s rights are guaranteed under Afghanistan’s constitution, which took effect after the Taliban’s fall in 2001. But that’s hardly meant instant and absolute equality, given entrenched beliefs, many of them held by more conservative Muslims propagating a male-dominated society. A 2011 poll from the Thomson Reuters Foundation ranked Afghanistan as the most dangerous country for women, citing violence, poor health care and widespread, severe poverty.

And it hasn’t gotten all better since then, with the United Nations reporting women’s casualties during 2014 rising 21% over the previous year, which itself was a 20% increase over 2012. Yet there have been definite progress as well, especially in education. While girls were essentially shut out of schools under the Taliban, roughly 2.5 million (in addition to 5.5 million boys) now attend Afghan schools, according to USAID, an American governmental agency. The overall number of people in secondary education has skyrocketed as well, from 7,800 in 2001 to some 123,000 in 2013.

Naderi has seen positive changes especially in Kabul, the Afghan capital where she has spent most of her life except for her time in Pakistan during the worst of the Afghan war. There, most girls are attending schools with computers in their classrooms. “But elsewhere, there are a lot of girls who have lots of problems,” she said. “We have lots of females who still need support — to provide some opportunities to them and to convince people to allow them to go to school.”

The hope is that the new Kabul University program. Ideally, it will grow and perhaps inspire similar initiatives elsewhere. Rather than having to rely on outside experts, it can produce scholars and activists to talk about the importance of an even playing field, show how it can help society and do something about it. It’s the kind of program that Naderi wishes she had growing up, but she’s thrilled to have now. “I’m really proud that finally we’ve reached this outcome,” she said, “that we’ll be able to something for the women of Afghanistan, that we’ve opened the door (of) opportunities for women.”

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Copy of Holy Quran Submitted To National Afghan Archive

Tuesday, October 27, 2015, Kabul (BNA) A copy of Holy Quran was submitted yesterday by head of Baihaqi books publishers to head of national archive in a ceremony held with participation of deputy minister of publication affairs for information and culture ministry, Sayeeda Mojgan Mostafavi and deputy minister of cultural affairs for information and culture Sayed Mosadiq Khalili.

According to head of Baihaqi Books Publishers Faizullah Muhtaj, the copy of the Holy Quran has been prepared from ‘Osmani Taha and Taj company style fonts, written and published by Mohammad Hussain Stiz Bakhtyari.

In the ceremony, deputy minister of publication affairs for information and culture Sayeeda Mojgan Mustafavi briefed related to benefits of reading the Holy Quran and said, “I’m happy to witness an unveiling ceremony of a copy of Holy Quran in the month of Muharam and a hardworking and experienced team of directorate of Baihaqi Book Publishers and I want to congratulate it first to ministry of information and culture, the people of Afghanistan, head of Baihaqi Books Publishers, Hussain Bakhtyari and his team.”

Mostafavi asserted that most of the country’s population was Muslims and the Holy Quran has particular position in their life, adding that it was better to pay consideration to practical perspectives of the holy book. Meanwhile, deputy minister of cultural affairs for information and culture Sayed Mosadiq Khalili also spoke and praised those making effort in preparation of the copy, stressing that overall consideration should be paid in connection with preservation of the copy of Holy Quran in national archive.

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Hotel occupancy rates drop double digit numbers in Turkey

ISTANBUL, October/30/2015 – Turkey’s hotel occupancy rates saw double-digit decline in September despite a rise in local tourists during a 9-day Eid holiday, said the Turkish Touristic Hotels and Investors Association (TUROB) in a written statement on Oct. 30.

Hotel occupancy rates decreased by 12.4 percent to 65.3 percent in September compared to the same month of 2014. As was the case in August, Turkey faced the steepest drop in hotel occupancy rates across Europe, including Russia, according to data compiled by TUROB from STR Global’s September figures. The rates also decreased in Turkey’s most popular tourism destinations, Istanbul and Antalya, added TUROB.

Room prices also showed a drop, said the data. While average daily room prices (ADR) were 115.1 euros in September 2014, this figure regressed to 111.1 euros in September 2015. The revenue per available room (RevPAR) also decreased from 85.7 euros in September 2014 to 72.5 euros in September 2015.

“The next few years will not be easy for the sector after this year, which is full of uncertainties and concerns. Our 2016 target is not to see lower figures than the 2015 figures. All problems resulting from escalating violence, terror attacks and economic instability need to be resolved in Turkey. Spreading negative perceptions about Turkey abroad also need to be recovered to enable the sector’s revival,” said TUROB President Timur Bayındır.

The largest hotel occupancy rates were seen in Malta with 91.6 percent in September, followed by Hungary with 89 percent and Ireland with 88.7 percent. Bulgaria and Turkey took place at the bottom of the list with 67.5 percent and 65.3 percent, respectively, according to STR Global data.

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Turkey’s tourism revenue decreases by 4.4 pct in third quarter

November 1 2015, ANKARA – Tourism revenues in Turkey declined 4.4 percent to $12.29 billion in the third quarter, the Turkish Statistics Institute (TÜİK) said on Oct. 30, amid security concerns and a decrease in the number of Russian tourists visiting the country.

The country’s tourism revenue was announced as $4.87 billion in the first quarter, a 1.3 percent decrease from the same period of 2014.

While 80.9 percent of this income (excluding GSM roaming and marina service expenditures) was obtained from foreign visitors, 19.1 percent was obtained from Turkish citizens who reside abroad, according to TÜİK’s data.

Visitors either organized their travel individually or with package tours. While individual expenditures constituted over $8.9 billion of the total tourism income, around $3.3 billion was obtained by package tour expenditures, according to the TÜİK data.

Turkey’s tourism industry may close this year with around $10-11 billion in losses amid a dramatic loss in Russian tourists and a sharp slash in hotel room prices across the country, according to leading sector representatives.

The number of foreign arrivals to Turkey continued to drop in September, according to data released by the Tourism Ministry on Oct. 27.

The number of foreigners arriving in Turkey in September 2015 was 4.25 million, down 2.31 percent from the same month of the previous year, according to the ministry’s data, which also showed the declining trend in the number of Russian tourists was still the case in September.

While Russian tourists made up almost 14.65 percent of Turkey’s visitors last September, this figure dropped to 12.44 percent of total visitors in the same month of 2015.

Some 529,000 Russian people visited Turkey this September, according to the fresh data.

The share of German visitors increased from 14.84 percent in September 2014 to 15.62 percent this September, although the number of German visitors overall showed a slight decrease compared to last year.

A total of 664,300 Germans visited the country in September this year, according to the ministry.

Visitors from Europe, who constitute over half of all visitors annually, slipped 5.9 percent in September to 2.22 million from 2.36 million a year earlier.

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AirAsia Foundation Marks ASEAN Community With Inaugural Social Enterprise Event

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 29 (Bernama) — AirAsia Foundation is holding its first public event titled ‘Destination: GOOD – ASEAN Social Enterprise in Kuala Lumpur’, which will take place on 7th Nov 2015, and tickets for the event are available from airasiaredtix.com at three price-tiers of RM80 (Conference & Marketplace), RM50 (Student) and RM10 (Marketplace Only).

The event, organised in partnership with ThinkCity and MaGIC Social Entrepreneurship, will be a full day affair comprising a Conference and Marketplace to feature top entrepreneurs such as Richard Eu, Group CEO of Eu Yan Sang International Ltd of Singapore; Shinta Kamdani, CEO of Sintesa Group of Indonesia and Vichien Phongsathorn, Group CEO of Premier Group of Thailand; and some of the most innovative social enterprises in the region.

This conference marks the coming into force of the ASEAN Economic Community and Malaysia’s Chairmanship of ASEAN and aims to discuss the future of entrepreneurship in ASEAN and how big businesses and social enterprises play complementary roles in making economic systems more equitable, sustainable and inclusive.

AirAsia Foundation is also proud to announce that the foundation is the first corporate entity to be accredited as an ASEAN Civil Society Organisation by the regional association in May 2015.

“AirAsia has always been about greater ASEAN integration. This time, we are bringing people together to talk about entrepreneurship and how it can be applied to address social challenges in our region. We will share how we are applying inclusive values into our business and extending our networks to support social entrepreneurship growth,” said AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes, who is also a Trustee of the Foundation.

There will also be a total of 30 innovative ASEAN social enterprises in a Marketplace hall where each organisation will showcase their businesses that address a range of goals from heritage conservation to wildlife welfare. Attendees will be able to interact with the social entrepreneurs and purchase ethical products and services in support of their causes.

Among the highlights at the Marketplace are AirAsia Foundation grantees including award-winning Rags2Riches, Inc. from the Philippines; Jogjakarta traditional silversmiths label group, Selaka Kotagede; and Khmer traditional arts organisation, Cambodian Living Arts. The Marketplace will also see exciting environmental and wildlife conservation initiatives from Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

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Etihad Airways To Commence A380 Services To Melbourne In June 2016

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Oct 26 (NNN-WAM) – Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, will commence daily A380 services between Abu Dhabi and Melbourne on June 1, 2016.

The flagship, superjumbo, will operate flights EY460/461, one of the airline’s twice daily Abu Dhabi-Melbourne services. It will replace one of the three-class Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, currently deployed on the route.

James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ President and Chief Executive Officer, said, “The launch of A380 services to Melbourne is good news for travellers on the very popular route.

“From June next year, guests on our Abu Dhabi-Melbourne A380 flights will discover what travellers the world over are talking about, the superior level of luxury, comfort, service, and in-flight technology that is redefining luxury air travel and transforming the flying experience.

“What’s more, the A380 service from Melbourne will connect seamlessly in Abu Dhabi to the A380 to London, offering our London-bound guests the convenience and class-leading comfort of an all-A380 service all the way.”

The new A380 will increase the total number of two-way seats on the Melbourne-Abu Dhabi route by 26 percent, to more than 11,500 seats per week.

The Minister for Tourism and Major Events in the State of Victoria, John Eren MP, said, “Etihad’s decision is good news for Victoria’s visitor economy and further proof we’re headed in the right direction. It means more visitors from all over the world will see for themselves everything we offer.

“Victoria has a positive relationship with Etihad Airways and, through our partnership marketing efforts, in the key markets of UK and Europe, more visitors can experience Melbourne and regional Victoria’s award-winning tourism attractions and nature-based experiences.”

Within Australia and to New Zealand, Etihad Airways code-shares on Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand flights from Melbourne to Adelaide, Auckland, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Christchurch, Coffs Harbour, Darwin, Gold Coast, Hamilton Island, Hobart, Kalgoorlie, Launceston, Mildura, Newcastle, Perth, Queenstown, Sunshine Coast, Sydney, and Wellington.

Etihad Airways commenced services to Melbourne on Mar 29, 2009. It added a second daily service to the route on Aug 1, 2015. It is the only airline offering double daily non-stop services between Melbourne and the United Arab Emirates.– NNN-WAM

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Etihad Airways Named ‘Best Overall In Middle East’ At Simpliflying Awards 2015

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Oct 29 (NNN-WAM) – Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has been named ‘Best Overall in Middle East’ at the SimpliFlying Awards 2015.

The awards recognise excellence and innovation in social media and marketing campaigns in the aviation industry. Winners were announced last week at a glittering ceremony during the Travel Distribution Summit, North America in Las Vegas, which was attended by more than 350 travel and hospitality executives.

An expert panel of industry experts selected Etihad Airways as winner of the Best Overall in Middle East Award, in recognition of the airline’s innovativeness, engagement and business impact in the social space, over the past 24 months.

Shane O’Hare, Etihad Airways’ Senior Vice President Marketing, said, “We are delighted to win this important award, which is a great reflection on our commitment to delivering powerful, effective social media strategies and campaigns.

“Social media is an integral part of our communications mix. We will continue to raise the bar in the global travel industry by creatively integrating digital and social media into our overall marketing and business strategy to enhance guest experience.”

Shashank Nigam, SimpliFlying’s CEO, said, “Etihad Airways has made tremendous progress in the last year, in how it uses social media, especially for customer service initiatives, like the Twitter channel for elite flyers. It is a trail-blazer in the Middle East, an innovative way to engage passengers.”

Etihad Airways implemented various initiatives on its social media channels, including a best-in-class customer service strategy, with a 90% response rate and with 80% of all enquiries answered within 10 minutes. Guests can communicate 24-hours a day in multiple languages including English, Arabic, Mandarin, German and Italian.

Earlier this year, the airline launched @EtihadPremium, a first-of-its-kind Twitter account, providing its Gold and Platinum frequent flyer programme members with exclusive prioritised service.

In 2014, Etihad Airways rolled out an innovative social media initiative, offering travel tips to Facebook and Twitter users through the #EtihadSuggests hash tag. In the past 12 months, the hash tag earned 713 million impressions, which equates to US$1.2 million in earned media value.

As part of its social first strategy, Etihad Airways used its social media channels as the first medium to break news, allowing it to benefit from maximum engagement and reach. In the past year, the airline launched its new A380 and B787 product and services, livery, and cabin crew and ground staff uniform, with a social first approach. This earned the airline 224 million impressions, US$400,000 in earned media value and nearly 4,000 mentions.

The Etihad Airways ‘Flying Reimagined’ global TV commercial, launched earlier this year, featuring Nicole Kidman, was also creatively leveraged on social media, to inspire and engage guests. YouTube was the hosting channel for the commercial, supported by a paid-media campaign in key markets, as well as active community engagement using the #Reimagined hash tag. The commercial garnered 5.1 million video views on YouTube, with an impressive retention rate of 89 percent.

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Call For Setting Up Of ASEAN Secretariat To Boost Islamic Tourism Industry

ALOR GAJAH, Malaysia Oct 30 (NNN-Bernama) — The Tourism and Culture Ministry has proposed for the setting up of a secretariat at ASEAN level to boost the Islamic tourism industry at the international level.

Its deputy minister, Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, said the initiative should be given proper attention as Islamic tourism had a very big market and capable of generating high revenue.

“Approximately 1.7 billion people in the world are Muslims, of whom 1.1billion are from the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) countries and 240 million are from ASEAN countries. So, this opportunity should be used wisely and quickly.

“It is also in line with the government’s aspiration to have 30.5 million tourist arrivals who will contribute RM103 billion to the country’s economy next year,” she told reporters after opening the state-level Consumer Power Carnival 2015 here today.

She said she proposed the matter at the Joint Seminar on Islamic Tourism inBandung, Indonesia, recently.

Mas Ermieyati said there were many sectors that could be developed along with the development of the Islamic tourism industry, including the halal food industry and accommodation suitable for Muslim tourists.

“As such, we hope the tourism industry players in will offer more Islamic packages and services that will meet the requirements of Muslim community,” she said.

For the record, she said 300 hotels in the country were registered with theMalaysian Islamic Development Department. — NNN-BERNAMA

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Bahrain Wins Silver Pavilion Architecture Award In Expo Milan ’15

MILAN, Italy, Oct 31 (NNN-BNA) – The Kingdom of Bahrain’s pavilion, received the silver prize of the Expo Milano 2015 Pavilion Architecture Award, it was announced late Friday.

Sheikh Haya Al-Khalifa, the Kingdom’s commissioner general to the Expo, received the prize for the 2,000-square metre pavilion, while the gold prize went to France and bronze to China.

With 10 distinctive fruit gardens, the Bahraini pavilion features archaeological artefacts, that celebrate the millennia-long tradition of agriculture.– NNN-BNA

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AFDB Approves US$285M For Tunisia, Kenya And Togo

ABIDJAN, Oct 30 (NNN-AfDB) — The Africa Development Bank Group (AfDB) has approved combined funding amounting to US $284.97 million in support of road infrastructure projects in Tunisia, an SMEs development project in Kenya, and a youth employability and integration in growth sectors project in Togo.

TUNISIA: Tunisia’s Road Infrastructure Modernization Project (PMIR) seeks to rehabilitate 719 kilometres of classified roads, mainly in the country’s inland (West, Centre-West and North-West) governorates.

The Bank’s support comprises €144-million ADB loan, €46.12 million loan from the Africa Growing Together Fund and US $1.68 million Middle Income Countries Technical Assistance Fund grant.

The project will also undertake periodic maintenance of 2,500 kilometres of classified roads that were upgraded under previous road projects funded by the Bank, the Tunisian Government and other donors over the past decades.

In line with Tunisia’s road network upgrading priority programme, PMIR, it is expected to improve user mobility on the classified road network by reducing transport constraints resulting from the narrowness and structure of carriageways. It will also help to protect the existing road network, while fostering intra- and inter-regional trade and reducing regional social disparities. Finally, it will reduce accidents and improve road infrastructure resilience to the effects of climate change.

KENYA: The Kenya Chase Bank Limited line of credit will support the growth of Chase Bank’s multi-sector SME loan portfolio in Kenya.

Chase Bank’s focus on SMEs is expected to produce significant development outcomes for the proposed line of credit, given the importance of SMEs to Kenya’s economic growth. This includes the creation of an estimated 500 jobs for sub-projects funded as a result of the loan, as well as additional government revenues from taxes paid by SMEs.

The line of credit will also support efforts by the Bank to improve Kenya’s SMEs access to financing and complement support extended to Kenya’s SMEs by both the AfDB and other development partners.

Chase Bank is a Tier 2 Kenyan bank established in 1996 with a specific focus on SME financing. It has experienced significant growth over the past eight years with the number of branches growing from 13 in 2010 to 38 in 2014. It has a strong SME banking product portfolio, which includes SME-focused overdraft facilities, term loans and asset financing products. Approximately 70% of its loan book is advanced to SMEs.

Chase Bank intends to generate more than KES 90 billion (USD 960 million) in new loans, of which KES 63 billion (USD 675 million) will be new SME loans. The growth will be funded through a combination of new customer deposits, funds mobilized from equity and debt investors, including DFIs, as well as a bond issuance. The approved AfDB LOC will complement these sources.

TOGO: The funding approved for Togo comprises of US $9.38-million African Development Fund grant, US $1.87 million Transition Support Facility grant and US $9.12-million Nigeria Trust fund loan.

The project aims to create the conditions for more inclusive economic growth by improving youth employability and promoting entrepreneurship in growth sectors.

As an integrated project which has involved the participation of several Bank departments (human development, agriculture, fragile states, inclusive financing and research), it aims to provide a contextual response to youth integration needs. This will be achieved through support to entrepreneurship in the agricultural value chain. It will also provide solutions to youth underemployment by developing prospecting tools that will adapt the vocational training system to labour market requirements.

The project will specifically target 12 key established SMEs, 1,200 young entrepreneurs (30% of whom are women), 14,200 producers/stockbreeders (40% of whom are women) and 200 women from vulnerable rural villages, 1,000 young people trained in vocational training (VT) centres supported by the project, 40% of whom are women.

The other project targets are four microfinance institutions, one financial institution (FI) and five training centres in the same regions in order to train young people in trades with good prospects.

It is expected to reduce the incidence of poverty from 58.7% (2011) to 49% (2025) as well as reduce the combined unemployment and underemployment rate for young men from 22% (2011) to 16% (2025) and young women from 31.9% (2011) to 26% (2025).

In the medium term, about 19,600 direct jobs (40% of which will be for women) will be created. The beneficiaries’ incomes are expected to rise by 25% by 2020.

The project incorporates an impact analysis of entrepreneurship support which consists in supporting all the agricultural value chain actors who will be empirically evaluated in order to assess the chain’s impact in terms of job and income creation. This would help to guide public action in widely disseminating the approach. — NNN-AfDB

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Kuwaiti Poet Al-Babtain Receives Mediterranean Foundation Peace Award

ROME, Italy, Oct 22 (NNN-KUNA) – In a special and glittering ceremony, the Mediterranean Foundation conferred its Peace Award of 2015, on the renowned Kuwaiti poet, Abdulaziz Saud Al-Babtain, in recognition of his efforts to promote the values of co-existence and tolerance.

The award-giving ceremony on Wednesday was attended by the Foundation President, Michele Capasso, Kuwaiti Ambassador in Rome, Ali Khaled Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, and a large number of dignitaries, including international intellectual and art figures and several Arab and foreign diplomats.

“This award is in recognition for all the supporters of dialogue among populations at a time when we know that the international political situation is very difficult, due to conflicts that inflame many regions of the world, and especially the Middle East,” Al-Babtain said, in a speech on the occasion.

“The responsibility of promoting peace has become a human duty, obligatory for everyone,” he added.

For his part, Kuwaiti Ambassador, Sheikh Ali, held a banquet in honour of Al-Babtain and his guests, following the ceremony.

The Mediterranean Awards (with various categories), was launched by the Fondazione Mediterraneo in 1996, and are granted every year to eminent personalities from the worlds of arts and culture, politics and science and social disciplines, whose actions have contributed to reducing tensions, breaking down cultural barriers and developing shared values in the Greater Mediterranean.

This Award is considered as one of the most prestigious acknowledgements in the world. Among those who had received it were the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, the US President, Barack Obama, Turkish President, Recep Tayyp Erdogan, and the late Jordanian King, Al-Hussein bin Talal.– NNN-KUNA

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Egypt Gears Up To Unveil Mysteries Of Pyramids

CAIRO, Egypt, Oct 26 (NNN-MENA) – The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities launched the “Scan Pyramids” project, in a bid to uncover more secrets about the architecture and the internal design of those gigantic stone monuments.

“Just because a mystery is 4,500 years old doesn’t mean it can’t be solved,” said Egypt’s antiquities minister, Mamdouh Eldamaty.

The goal of the project, which will start in early Nov, is to probe the heart of the largest pyramids of Egypt, without drilling the slightest opening, Eldamaty said, at an international press conference.

Using the new techniques of scanning might result, hopefully, in exploring new rooms, corridors, cavities or hallways, which will answer many questions about the construction of the Pyramids, Eldamaty added.

The survey is a joint venture between Japan and Egypt, in collaboration with a consortium from the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University, as well as, the Heritage Innovation and Preservation Institute in France.

Radiographic muons, aka cosmic particles, infra red thermography, photogrammetry, scanner and 3-D reconstruction will be the most innovative technologies that will be used by the researchers.

Four millennia after their construction, these ancient giants are far from yielding their secrets.

The first mystery concerns their construction, especially Khufu, the last of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still standing: it is still impossible to describe with certainly how this stone monument, the largest ever built by humans, was erected.

With a base of more than five hectares, its original height of almost 150 metres and a mass of five million tonnes, how was it possible to construct such a wonder in only 25 years?

Another mystery is the internal structure of the pyramids.

Various explorations conducted in the past, with less sophisticated means than today, have caught images that could correspond to hidden chambers, said Hany Helal, professor in engineering at Cairo University and general coordinator for the project.

The scientific mission “Scan Pyramids” is an unprecedented, large-scale project with its focus on four masterpieces of the Fourth Dynasty (2575-2465 BC) on the site of Dahshur, about 15 km south of Saqqara.

The mission will study the South pyramid, called the Bent, and the North pyramid, called the Red, both built by Senefru (2575-2551 BC)

On the Giza plateau, about 20 km from Cairo, the mission will study the pyramids of Khufu and Khafre, built by the son and grandson of Snefru.

“Many hypothetical theories have been proposed, either explaining their construction or their structural anomalies, but we are physicists and engineers, not archaeologists,” said Helah, adding, “Our goal is to use techniques to get concrete results, then the Egyptologists will interpret them.”

Non-destructive technologies will be implemented, Kunihiro Morishima, from Nagoya University, said.

Two infra red thermography missions will establish a thermal map of the pyramids, to reveal differences in density, with goals to identify if there are any voids behind the faces of the pyramids. Two other missions, using muons radiography or cosmic rays, will aim to verify and accurately visualise the presence of unknown structures within the monuments, Morishima added.

The cosmic rays are immensely high-energy radiation, mainly originating outside the solar system, and are also used by the Japanese for early detection of volcanoes and earthquakes, added Morishima.

Mehdi Tayoubi, professor with French Heritage, Innovation and Preservation Institute said, “Our desire is to form a team of international experts, then discuss and confront the theoretical and technological approached to the archaeological ground reality.”

“The key is to move forward by implementing new approaches,” said Tayoubi, who explained that many previous missions have attempted to unveil the mysteries of the pyramids, and even if they were unsuccessful, they were helping advance knowledge.

He insisted that “our goal is to make our contribution and to prepare, in humility, the path for future scientific research missions.”

The mission should last until the end of 2016.

Egyptian minister of antiquities, Eldamaty, named the year 2016 as the “Pyramids Year.”

He added, the techniques of the new mission will be used also in scanning the Tutankhamun tomb, to make sure if there are more rooms existing behind it.– NNN-MENA

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Australia: Mosques Open Doors To Encourage Respect, Understanding

MELBOURNE, Australia Oct 30 (NNN-Bernama) — Australians have been invited to attend their local National Mosque Open Day on Saturday, the second year that this event will place.

The Open Day, supported by the Department of Social Services, is about community participation, understanding, inclusiveness and respect, the Federal Minister for Justice, Michael Keenan said.

“It also provides a time for us to reflect on where Australia has come from and where it is today,” he said.

In a statement, the Minister said he joined with Imam Shabir Moosa Adam and Imam Burhaan Mehtar at Masjid Ibrahim in Southern River, Perth to encourage cultural understanding in Australia.

“The Government is deeply committed to its freedom agenda, which includes advancing measures to protect freedom of speech, freedom of religion and other traditional rights and liberties.

“However the Government strongly condemns those who attempt to diminish our freedoms in Australia and urge violence and hatred within our community,” Keenan said, adding that the Government was working closely with the community to address radicalisation and extremism to protect all citizens’ rights to personal freedom and choice.–NNN-BERNAMA

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Kuwait Info. Min. calls for establishing tourism authority

KUWAIT, Oct 31 (KUNA) — Information Minister, State Minister for Youth Affairs and the Supreme Tourism Committee Chairman Sheikh Salman Sabah Salem Al-Humoud Al-Sabah has called for establishing a tourism authority for managing the sector’s diverse activities including cultural and entertainment programs.

Minister Sheikh Salman affirmed, during a meeting of the commission, keenness on overhauling the sector with aim of making it one of the national income sources, as part of the state revenues’ diversifying policy, according to a ministry statement released on Saturday.

This sector is envisioned as one of the Kuwaiti economy foundations, considering its high proceeds and political, economic and social benefits, Minister Sheikh Salman said, noting the private sector should be included in such a process; backed by the government with the necessary legislations.

The supreme commission, which groups talented citizens, is capable of activating such a strategy for the Kuwaiti tourism, he said, noting the need for in-depth studies, upgrading the infrastructure, diversifying the programs and allocating more lands for new projects. He also called for training national cadres, particularly the young nationals, in the process to develop the field.

Expansion of Kuwait International Airport to reach an accommodation capacity of 25 million passengers per year, warrants expansion of the services and tourism projects, “which in turn should lure many young Kuwaitis thus creating new work opportunities for them,” the minister said.

The meeting was held after the tourism portfolio was shifted from the Ministry of Commerce to the Information Ministry. (end) mdm.tb.rk

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NMC sign agreement with Kazakhstan to participate at Expo Astana 2017

MILAN, 31st October, 2015 (WAM)–National Media Council (NMC) has signed an agreement with the National Company Astana, which organises Expo Astana 2017, in Kazakhstan, to take part at Expo Astana 2017 in Kazakhstan.

The agreement was signed by Salem Al Ameri, Commissioner-General of the UAE Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015.

Expo Astana 2017 will be held in the Kazakh capital, Astana, from 10th June – 10th September, 2017, under the theme “Future Energy.” The event will be a platform to discuss new ideas and approaches to the future of energy.

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Turkish airports project over 100 million passengers this year

BURSA – Doğan News Agency – October/29/2015 – TAV Airports CEO Sani Şener said the company has offered services to 96 million passengers last year and foresees closing this year at over 100 million passengers served.

“We offered services to 96 million passengers in our domestic and foreign airports last year, thanks mainly to our operations in Istanbul. Our projection is to close this year with over 100 million. We had set a 100 million target for the year 2020 in 2010, but we’ll reach this target ahead of 2016. The number of air passengers has been growing in parallel to Turkey’s growth. We also cannot deny the contribution Turkish Airlines’ high growth figures,” he said at a meeting of the Balkan’s Rumelia Industry and Business Association in the northwestern province of Bursa.

He also noted that the company expects around 10-12 percent of increase in revenue this year compared to last year.

“If we won the operational rights of the duty free business at the Houston Airport in Texas, we can go and make business anywhere in the world. We have recently been found qualified to bid in an airport tender in the Philippines. We’ll bid for the construction and operational rights of five airports there,” he said, adding that the company is eyeing bigger stakes in Asia Pacific airports.

He said the company has posted a significant growth in the service business in a bid to grow further in this field.

“We have the operational rights of 14 airports across the world. Our business group also has a construction company, which only concentrates on airport building. With the addition of this business, the number of airports on which our business group has a footprint increases up to 70,” he said.

He noted that the number of tourists visiting Turkey has slightly decreased this year due to escalating violence, adding that there is not any decline in Istanbul.

“We faced serious problems in Tunisia after the terror attacks had broken out there. We have seen a decrease in the number of Russian tourists in the Antalya Airport, where we offer only ground services…Our operations is going very well in Istanbul and Georgia. And we believe the operations will back to normal in Tunisia next year. Our company follows a smart growth strategy as we learn to deal with any shocks anywhere in the world,” he said.

Şener also said air flight culture has developed in Turkey in a very rapid pace.

“When our company first started to make this business at the end of the 1990s, around 33 million people preferred air travel. This figure has increased to 160-170 million. This is a huge growth,” he said.

TAV increased its revenue by 17 percent to 508 million euros in the first half of 2015, the company said in July. Consolidated net profit of TAV Airports increased 4 percent and reached 88 million euros. The number of passengers at the airports operated by TAV reached 48 million with an increase of 8 percent compared to the previous year, said the company.

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